With an aging population, and the rise in awareness among the public, regarding the seriousness of maintaining their health, the healthcare sector has blossomed like never before.

One such profession in this vast field is Surgical Technologist. They assist the surgeons, during, before, and after the surgery in the operating room.

So, if you aspire to be part of this ever-booming healthcare sector, or have an interest in being part of a surgery team, and if you believe you can deal calmly in tense situations, then a career as a surgical tech is perfect for you.

To enlighten you about them, we have this article discussing the Surgical techs, their work environment, earning potential, job outlook, their duties, pros and cons of this career, certification details and the steps after that, and much more. 

What is a Surgical Tech

What is a Surgical Technologist?  

A Surgical Technologist is often referred to as a surgical tech or CST (Certified Surgical Techs). They are crucial members of a surgical team in healthcare settings.

Their primary role is to assist surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals in the operating room (OR) during surgical procedures.

They play a vital role in ensuring that surgical procedures are conducted safely and efficiently. They possess a strong understanding of surgical techniques, instruments, and procedures, as well as excellent communication and teamwork skills.

Many surgical technologists complete accredited training programs and become certified through organizations like the NBSTSA and NCCT.

Work Environment

The employers of surgical technologists are as follows:

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Offices of Physicians
  • Administrative and Support Services
  • Offices of Dentists


As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $28.

However, the BLS states the annual average salary of Surgical Assistants is $57,290 with an hourly rate of around $27.

Moreover, among the Surgical Techs, the highest 10% are earning upwards of $78,560 per year, and higher. The salary potential depends on several factors like – experience, expertise, education, and such.

But, the lowest 10% of CSTs earn around $38,860 per year. So, when you are starting your career you can expect your salary to be ranging between $38,000 to $ $55,960.

Job Outlook

As per the BLS, the projected employment growth rate for surgical assistants and technologists is projected to grow by 5% in this decade.

This means that there would be around 8,600 fresh openings projected each year, over the decade.

According to the BLS, in 2022 alone, the CSTs held about 109,200 with the largest employer being the Hospitals.

This goes on to speak about the demand for these professionals with the aging baby boomer population.

Read -> How Long Does It Take to Become a Surgical Tech? 

What is a Certified Surgical Tech?  

A Surgical Tech who has validated his skills by passing the national exam for surgical technologists is called a Certified Surgical Tech or the CST. 

Why do we need certifications? Because it is beneficial for finding employment since most employers only seek to hire certified professionals. Also, as a patient, we want to be treated with certified professionals alone.

So, a Surgical Tech with a certification status, signifies that they have met established standards of education and competence, assuring patients and employers of their qualifications and commitment to safe and effective surgical care.

You may earn your certification through credentialing organizations. Let’s discuss them –

Certifications Providers

There are two main certification providers for surgical technologists. Also, it is to be noted that the regulations may vary per state, so you should check it first.

  • National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

Besides the certification, many employers seek surgical technologists who also possess certifications in CPR, BLS, or both.

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Titles Based on Certification Providers

Depending on the certification provider you get your title. Although the role of the organizations is to offer certification, you should know the respective names. 

Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)

If you wish to get your certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting then it offers you the title – Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).

To be eligible, you are typically required to complete an accredited formal education program or undergo a military training program.

Apart from that, you are required to document critical skills and pass an exam to be certified.

Tech in Surgery – Certified or TS-C

If you wish to get your certification through the National Center for Competency Testing then it offers you the title of Tech in Surgery – Certified or TS-C.

To be eligible, you need to enroll in a Surgical Technology program from an NCCT-authorized school. You may also qualify through military training or verifiable work experience as a Surgical Technology practitioner.

Whatever qualification you may possess, you require documenting critical skills and passing an exam to be certified.


To maintain their certification, Certified Surgical Techs are often required to complete continuing education and periodic re-certification.

This ensures that they stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in surgical technology and maintain their skills.

What does a Surgical Tech do? Duties

What does a Surgical Tech do? Duties

As a Surgical Technologist, you play a crucial role in setting up the operating room (OR) and assisting surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals during surgical procedures.

Your duties are essential for ensuring the smooth and safe conduct of surgeries. Here’s an overview of the duties of a surgical technologist –


You need to prepare the operating room by ensuring that it’s sterile and properly equipped. You need to set up surgical instruments, equipment, and supplies. This has to be done before surgery is set to commence.  

Assisting the Surgeon

During surgery, you need to assist the surgeons by passing the instruments and supplies to the surgeon and the surgical team.

You must anticipate the needs of the surgeon and maintain a sterile field to minimize the risk of infection.

Patient Care

You’ll also assist in positioning and preparing the patient for surgery. You may help them with draping and ensuring their comfort and safety.

Instrument Sterilization

After surgery, you are responsible for cleaning, sterilizing, and preparing instruments and equipment for future procedures.

Team Communication

You need to communicate effectively with the surgical team, including surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists, to ensure the smooth flow of the operation.

Safety and Infection Control

You must follow strict protocols to maintain a sterile environment and adhere to safety and infection control measures to protect patients and the surgical team.

Emergency Situations

In the event of an emergency during surgery, such as sudden bleeding, you should assist in responding quickly and effectively to stabilize the situation.

More On -> What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

What is the Next Step after Becoming a Surgical Tech?  

There is no specific next step or a step that fits all. In fact; your next step would depend on your career goals, interests, and the opportunities available in your region.

After becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) and gaining experience in the field, there are two paths that you may choose – pursue further education and career advancement.

If you wish to advance your career and take on more specialized or leadership roles in the healthcare industry then continuing education and professional development is essential. Or, you may simply stick to gaining experience.  

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Here are some common next steps taken by CSTs, which you too could follow –

Surgical First Assistant (CSFA)

There are some surgical techs that chose to become Certified Surgical First Assistants (CSFAs). CSFAs have advanced training and can directly assist surgeons during procedures by providing exposure, handling tissues, and suturing incisions.

To become a CSFA, additional education and clinical training is required.

Bachelor’s Degree

Some Surgical techs, to advance their careers or take on more specialized roles have considered earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as healthcare management, nursing, or surgical technology management.

A bachelor’s degree can open up opportunities for leadership positions and management roles.


Some Surgical techs pursued specialized certifications in specific surgical areas, such as orthopedic, cardiovascular, or neurosurgical technology.

These certifications demonstrate expertise in a particular surgical subspecialty and can lead to specialized job opportunities.

Registered Nurse or Physician Assistant

Some surgical techs chose to further their education and become registered nurses (RNs) or physician assistants (PAs).

This path involves completing a nursing or physician assistant program, followed by licensure or certification.

Post becoming an RN or PA, you can take on more comprehensive healthcare roles and have a broader range of responsibilities.

Supervisory or Management or Admin Roles

The experienced surgical techs or the ones with additional education pursued supervisory or management positions in surgical departments or healthcare facilities.

These roles may involve overseeing other surgical techs, managing budgets, and ensuring efficient operations.

Also, to be eligible, you need to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration or healthcare management. This can alone lead to administrative roles in healthcare facilities, including surgical departments.

Teaching and Education

Some experienced surgical techs have gone on to become instructors or educators in surgical technology programs, sharing their knowledge and expertise with aspiring surgical tech students.

Research and Development

Some surgical techs transitioned into roles involving research and development of surgical instruments, equipment, or techniques; with additional education in engineering or biomedical sciences.

Sales and Product Representation

Some surgical techs with strong product knowledge explored careers in medical device sales, where they had to promote and sell surgical equipment and instruments to healthcare facilities. 

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Pros and Cons of being a Surgical Technologist

pros and cons of Surgical Technologist

A career as a surgical technologist offers numerous advantages, including job security, job satisfaction, and a supportive team environment.

However, it’s essential to consider the physical demands, potential stress, and emotional toll of the job, as well as the requirements for certification and limited advancement opportunities.

Ultimately, your suitability for this profession will depend on your personal interests, resilience, and career goals.

The Pros of Being a Surgical Technologist

Let’s explore the advantages –

High Demand

One of the most significant advantages of pursuing a career as a surgical technologist is the high demand for these professionals.

As per the BLS, the projected employment growth rate for surgical assistants and technologists is projected to grow by 5% in this decade. This means that there would be around 8,600 fresh openings projected each year, over the decade.

According to the BLS, in 2022 alone, the CSTs held about 109,200 with the largest employer being the Hospitals. This goes on to speak about the demand for these professionals.

Job Satisfaction and Job Security

If you’re someone who finds fulfillment in making a direct impact on patient’s lives, this career can be deeply rewarding.

You can play a crucial role in assisting during surgeries, ensuring that procedures go smoothly, and contributing to positive patient outcomes.

Also, with the aging boomer population and advancements in medical technology, the number of surgeries performed continues to rise. This translates to good job prospects and job security in the field.

Quick Entry into the Workforce

Unlike many healthcare careers that require several years of education and training, you can enter the field of surgical technology relatively quickly, in just 1 to 2 years.

Some programs offer diplomas or certificates that can be completed in less than a year, while associate degree programs typically take about two years.

Better Pay

As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $28.

Moreover, among the Surgical Techs, the highest 10% are earning upwards of $78,560 per year, and higher. The salary potential depends on several factors like – experience, expertise, education, and such. 

More On -> Surgical Tech Salary 

Variety of Specialties

Surgical technologists have the opportunity to work in a wide range of surgical specialties, from orthopedics and cardiovascular surgery to neurosurgery and obstetrics. 

This variety allows you to gain experience in different medical procedures and areas of expertise.

Team Environment

Working in surgery involves being part of a close-knit team of healthcare professionals. You’ll collaborate closely with surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other support staff, fostering a sense of friendship and teamwork.

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The Cons of Being a Surgical Technologist

Let’s explore the disadvantages –

Physically Demanding

Being a surgical technologist can be physically demanding. You may need to work during nights, weekends, and holidays with the shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.

You’ll need to stand for extended periods during surgeries and may be required to lift and position patients. This physical aspect of the job can be challenging, and it’s essential to maintain good physical health.

Stressful Work Environment

The surgical environment is fast-paced and can be highly demanding. You’ll need to work in stressful situations, especially during emergency surgeries or when unexpected complications arise. Maintaining composure and attention to detail is crucial.

Also, witnessing surgeries and dealing with medical emergencies can be emotionally taxing for some individuals. You may encounter challenging and emotionally charged situations in the OR, which can impact your emotional well-being.

Exposure to Infections

Given the nature of the operating room, surgical techs face a risk of exposure to infectious diseases. However, you can avoid these with strict adherence to infection control measures, by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Certification Requirements

To practice as a surgical technologist, achieving and maintaining certification, such as the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential, is often necessary. This requires ongoing education and exam fees to stay current in the field. Also, you need recertification periodically.

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Limited Advancement Opportunities

While surgical technology offers a fulfilling career, advancement opportunities within the profession may be limited.

Some surgical techs seek further education or transition to related healthcare roles, such as becoming registered nurses (RNs), to pursue career growth.

Read -> Pros And Cons Of Being A Surgical Tech

FAQs – Surgical Technologist

Surgical Technologist

What is the highest-paid Surgical Technologist?

Surgical Techs generally earn an annual average salary of $55,960, as per the BLS. But some employers pay them more than their average salary.

Obviously; the pay would depend on various factors like experience, specialty, education, and location as well.

Here are the top-paying industries for CSTs (BLS Data) –

  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories – $71,430
  • Home Health Care Services – $ 67,370
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $ 67,180
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $ 65,720
  • Specialty Hospitals (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) – $ 63,930

Where do surgical techs make the most money?

As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960 in the US, with an hourly rate of around $28. But, within the country, some states pay the CSTs better.

Top paying states to CSTs –

  • Alaska – $73,960
  • California – $72,860
  • Connecticut – $71,430
  • Nevada – $69,300
  • Washington – $66,590

What are the top industries that employ Surgical Technologists?

The employers of surgical technologists are as follows –

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private – 71%
  • Outpatient Care Centers – 12%
  • Offices of Physicians – 12%
  • Administrative and Support Services – 2%
  • Offices of Dentists – 1%


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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.